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Russia targets Kyiv with ballistic missiles as fears increase of attacks on energy infrastructure

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KYIV, Ukraine -

A Russian missile attack on Ukraine's capital early Monday destroyed several homes and left more than 100 households without electricity.

The predawn attack on Kyiv came amid warnings that Russia will step up its attacks on the country's energy infrastructure as winter sets in with freezing temperatures.

A series of loud explosions followed by air raid sirens broke the silence in Kyiv just after 4 a.m. as the city was under its nightly curfew.

Ukraine's military said its air defences intercepted all eight ballistic missiles. However, falling debris from rockets damaged homes on the ground, leaving one person wounded and three others suffering severe shock, officials said.

AP journalists witnessed some of the destruction in the district of Bortnychi on the southeastern outskirts of Kyiv. A home under construction was ripped apart and nearby buildings were partially damaged, with gaping holes in the roofs and walls.

Victor Demchenko, the owner of the destroyed house, was clearing debris from his property, next to a crater about 5 metres (16 feet) deep in the backyard. Demchenko said he was in another part of the city when he heard the explosions.

"Then the neighbor called ... and said all that is left of the house is a crater," he said. "I didn't believe him, so I took the car and drove here. Well, you can see it yourself, there is nothing to be found here."

At another home about 2 kilometres (a mile) away, Nadia Matvienko was lucky to escape uninjured when her home was damaged in the attack.

"It's like I felt something. I couldn't sleep all night, was turning in my bed back and forth. Then 'bang, bang,' we rushed to the hallway. Next thing we heard is the house being torn apart," she said, wiping away tears as she sat in her home with shattered glass and damaged furniture strewn across the floor.

The attack also left some 120 households in the city without electricity, Ukraine's Ministry of Energy said. Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia will target energy infrastructure to cause power outages and blackouts like it did last winter.

In an intelligence update over the weekend, the U.K. Defense Ministry noted that Russia last week used its heavy bomber fleet for the first time since September. It predicted the start of a more concerted campaign aimed at degrading Ukraine's energy infrastructure as winter sets in.

Just over two weeks ago, Kyiv came under what Ukrainian officials said was the most intense drone attack since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022. Ukraine's air force said Russia launched 75 Iranian-made Shahed drones against the capital, of which 74 were destroyed by air defences.

Elsewhere in Ukraine on Monday, the air force said it intercepted 18 Russian drones, mostly over the southern Mykolaiv region.

The attacks came as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was in Argentina for the swearing-in of the country's new president, Javier Milei. It was the Ukrainian leader's first official trip to Latin America as Kyiv continues to court support among developing nations for its 21-month-old fight against Russia's invading forces.

Zelenskyy met with Milei as well as with the presidents of Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador. During the inauguration ceremony, Zelenskyy could be seen exchanging words with Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest allies in Europe and one of the few European leaders who hasn't sided with Ukraine in the war.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said he had a "highly straightforward conversation" with Orban, "focused on our European affairs."

EU leaders are meeting later this week in Brussels. Orban has demanded that EU membership talks with Ukraine and billions of euros in funding meant for Kyiv be taken off the agenda.

Zelenskyy was due to travel to Washington for meetings Tuesday with President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials where he "will focus on ensuring unity among the United States, Europe and the world in supporting Ukraine's defence against Russian terror and strengthening the international order based on rules and respect for the sovereignty of each nation," his office said in a statement.

Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion (US$61.4 billion) package of wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But the request is caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.

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Associated Press writers Karl Ritter and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed to this report.

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